(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

Every Friday we dive into the Wayback Machine for a little trip down memory lane. If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you.

Not everybody is going to be on stage this weekend.

Not everybody is going to be in the spotlight.

Not everybody will speak to the masses; not everybody will carry a title; not everybody will be seen by a crowd.

Somebody’s work is going to be behind the scenes. Somebody is going to feel like their contribution is insignificant. Somebody is going to ask the question, “Does what I do really matter?”

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Yes, I recognize the irony in having a flashback post that tells you not to look back, but work with me here, people.

Wednesday was a first at our household.  After weeks of begging, I finally relented and let my 12 year old hop on the riding mower and mow the lawn.  I had mowed all the tough parts…he had no trees, no flowerbeds, no sidewalks to maneuver…just one huge rectangular spot of grass.  Up.  Down.  Back.  Forth.  It was simple, really.  I gave him a quick tutorial about how he needed to use the front right tire as a guide.  Watch the tire.  Keep it lined up with the strip that needs to be cut.  Watch the tire.  Watch the tire.  Austin, what did I say?  Watch the tire.  There was no way he could fail.

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The bystanders at Raleigh-Durham Airport never knew what hit them.

Late Monday afternoon a few dozen people descended on Terminal 2. They brought banners and balloons and cookies and a camera crew. They gathered at the arrival point to welcome a very special little girl home. To her new home. To her forever home.

Elizabeth’s journey had started 24 hours before in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But her parents’ journey? That had been underway for much, much longer.

Matt and Catherine Allison are some of my heroes. If something could possibly delay or derail an international adoption, they’ve faced it. They’ve battled bizarre hurricanes and errant visas and embassy holdups and lost adoption files. They had to switch from their originally intended country after that country’s adoption program completely shut down. They’ve processed mountains of paperwork and spent boatloads of cash and fought every conceivable battle in an effort to bring their daughter home.

And now, she is.

The crowd at RDU was full of people who have been impacted by Matt and Catherine’s story. Nearly every family there either had adopted or were in the process of adopting, and almost all of those were doing so, in part, because of the example they’ve seen through the Allison family. Beautifully blended and grafted and colorful families were waiting together, anxious for the moment when another former orphan would be united with her family.

In the group were kids of varying nationalities and skin tones and ethnic origin. But one thing united them all: they were sought after. They were rescued. Their identity had changed, and now it was secure.

As Catherine and Elizabeth made their way off the plane and towards waiting friends and family, it hit me that their journey is similar to our own. Like Elizabeth, we were sought by a foreign rescuer. Like Elizabeth, that rescuer stopped at nothing to bring his children home. And like Elizabeth, that rescuer gave us a new name and a new heritage.

Elizabeth doesn’t yet realize what she has been saved from. She doesn’t fully grasp what she has been saved to. Her identity, though legally binding, is still wholly unfamiliar. It will take time for her intellectual being to catch up to her physical reality, her “new normal.”

And yet, she’s an Allison. Now and forever. She’s another child that was an orphan, that was fatherless, that was homeless and hopeless, but now everything has changed.

She’s home.

But still, there are some who are not. Still, there are those who wait. Both in that crowd and in our church, there are families that will face another Christmas with a heart towards another country and an eye towards an empty chair. Mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers who have prayed for, sought after, and fought for another child to be grafted into their family.

I see that temporary but all-too-real scenario playing out in the lives of friends, some of whom are just beginning the adoption journey, and others who – like the Allisons – have been in it for far too long. They persevere not because they enjoy the wait, but because they understand the calling. They stick it out not because it’s easy, but because they can’t imagine giving up.

They hang in because a child – their child – has yet to come home.

This Christmas season, would you join me in praying for these families? Thank God for families like the Allisons who have remained steadfast in giving a new identity to a son or a daughter. Plead with God for others who feel like the journey will never end. Reach out to them. Encourage them. Pray for and with them.

The journey is long. But the reward is great. And the responsibility is ours.

Allisons 1 Allisons 2Allisons 4 Allisons 3

…or at least that was the famous saying of a student pastor I used to work with. His theory was that we never really leave behind the self-concious insecure zit-focused weirdness that seems to punctuate the lives of 6th-8th graders everywhere. And I think I agree with him.

Last Friday night I spoke at the Summit’s first ever Middle School Retreat (apparently based solely on my expertise as being a middle schooler myself, once). The topic was “Identity” out of Ephesians 2, and my goal was to try to help kids understand that for the believer, our identity was established at the cross. We are not the hats and personas we try on; we are the workmanship of Jesus Christ. His righteousness is what God sees when he looks at us. For that reason, we no longer have to worry about whether others accept us. Because God has already accepted us, it gives us the opportunity to go on the offensive and accept others and see them reconciled to the gospel.

And man, that sounded so, so good. I felt downright spiritual. I was tossing out gospel truths like they were butterscotch disks at a Christmas parade. I was telling these kids something that would change their lives forever.

But meanwhile, back at the ranch…

As you know, we just moved to a new neighborhood. And prior to this neighborhood, we lived out in the country. Way out in the country. So our sum total of the rural Halloween experience was either (a) hiking into town and pretending to live in a “real” neighborhood so we could go trick or treating, (b) going to eat dinner at Pizza Hut and trying to ignore the merriment and mirth and potential satanic graveyard sacrifices at midnight that was going on all around us, or (c) protecting our rural home from the onslaught of rural Halloween-themed practical jokes, the main one involving a rural flaming brown paper sack filled with rural…things.

So the suburban Halloween experience has been new for us. One of the main things we’ve noticed is a neighborhood phenomenon known as “You’ve Been Booed.” The way You’ve Been Booed works is that a neighbor sneaks onto your porch in the middle of the night, leaves a little bucket full of candy and treats and a You’ve Been Booed sign, and as long as the suburban squirrels don’t discover it by morning, you get to take the You’ve Been Booed sign and hang it on your door, signifying that you have great relational value and intrinsic human worth in the neighborhood.

Well, I’ve been seeing these You’ve Been Booed signs on doors all over the ‘hood. And I kept thinking, “We don’t have a You’ve Been Booed sign. Nobody has left us a You’ve Been Booed sign. Without a You’ve Been Booed sign, we’re probably cementing our non-popularity status for the duration of our mortgage. I MUST GET A YOU’VE BEEN BOOED SIGN EVEN IF I HAVE TO PRINT IT MYSELF.”

And so imagine my delight when I woke up on Saturday morning (less than 12 hours after telling middle schoolers that their worth is found in Jesus) and saw a glimmer of an orange bucket sitting on the front porch. I threw open the door, shooed away the suburban squirrels, and paraded the bounty back into the house, announcing to my family “WE’VE BEEN BOOED! WE’VE BEEN BOOED! THEY LIKE US! THEY REALLY LIKE US!” (Okay, I didn’t actually announce it that way, mainly because half the family was still asleep and I wanted first crack at the candy.)

Pathetic.

In the time it took me to tape the coveted You’ve Been Booed sign on the front door, I discovered that in the depths of my heart I’m still an insecure 7th grader. I still care way too much what other people think of me. My sense of identity is not found in how God sees me, but in how people with a stash of fun sized Snickers bars see me.

How about you? What’s your best example of how you’ve never left middle school? Comment below.